California Confession Bill on Hold

Opposition from the Catholic Conference of California

A bill in California which would have made priests violate the seal of confession has been put on hold because of opposition from the Catholic Church. The bill would make it illegal California religious leaders to withhold reports of their co-workers’ confessions of child abuse or neglect.

The law in California already specifies that clergy must report knowledge of neglect and child abuse. However, there’s a loophole in the current law which states that clergy may opt to keep it a secret if they’ve learned about neglect and child abuse during a confession.

The bill titled California Senate Bill 360 was removed from Monday’s agenda from a meeting of California’s Assembly’s Public Safety Committee a day before it was to be debated by the committee.

Democrat from San Mateo, State Senator Jerry Hill had already written a bill to change the law only if the confession was from another person who works at the Church or from another religious leader. The bill was passed by the Senate by a vote of 30-4.

Hill announced on Tuesday that he was putting the bill on hold because the bill wouldn’t receive enough support to pass the state Assembly. Hill has clarified that the issue is important to him. He made a vow to not ease up on his efforts to see the bill passed.

In a news release, Hill clarified that Senate Bill 360’s purpose isn’t to restrict faith but to make sure that the most vulnerable of the faithful are protected. He went on to say that he has a strong belief that self-policing and self-investigation for any institution aren’t effective ways to fight alleged abuse as has been noted by California’s state Legislature.

Hill was referring to how California’s Legislature has recently changed how it investigates sexual misconduct against its members after being the subject of intense criticism.

The Catholic Conference of California has opposed the bill by commenting that while it agrees with the principle of protecting all youth from sexual abuse, it also believes that everyone should have the right to confess confidentially as well as anonymously. The Catholic Conference of California has said that the bill would deny this right to thousands of the Church’s employees because of their religious as well as employment status.

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